This letter from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (he didn't actually write it, but still) to a constituent on the topic of legalizing marijuana shows how difficult it is to convincingly defend the federal ban on a drug that is less dangerous than the alcohol or cigarettes you can pick up on any street corner in New York. You pretty much have to just make things up:
"Because of the harm that substances like marijuana and other narcotics pose to our society, I have concerns about this legislation. The detrimental effects of drugs have been well documented: short-term memory loss, loss of core motor functions, heightened risk of lung disease, and even death," McConnell wrote.
Death! What is this, Reefer Madness? Where are all these well-documented cases of marijuana causing death? To overdose on marijuana, according to a 1988 DEA report, you would "theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana" — this much — "within about fifteen minutes." Longer term, marijuana doesn't harm lung function even after decades of use, and, oddly enough, may even improve it, according to a major recent study.
To be totally fair, McConnell's letter didn't directly, explicitly say that marijuana can kill you. It very subtly only made that claim about "drugs" in general. "Everyone from the Obama administration on down agrees that drug use has had serious consequences, including deaths," a McConnell spokesperson tells the Huffington Post. "The letter makes that clear."
Except, McConnell's constituent, and very few people nationwide, are asking for all drugs to be legalized. Just weed. If you have to lump marijuana together with all other drugs in order to make it sound scary, that would seem to indicate that it's not actually very scary.